ACDS supports Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and the Humanities

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The Australian Council of Deans of Science (ACDS) wishes to express publicly its strong support of our colleagues, the Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and the Humanities (DASSH), in their call for reform in three areas of recent policy, which together `represent a sustained assault on the arts, social sciences and humanities’. These are the Jobs Ready Graduate Package (JrG), the Research Commercialisation Action Plan (RCAP) and reforms to the Australian Research Council.

As we move towards a knowledge-based and low-carbon economy, government policies must be informed by the full spectrum of disciplines, including but not limited to Science, Technology, Economics, and Humanities. The latter provides profound and critical insights into the human condition and its expression, enabling us to address issues of inequity that have plagued other nations and that can result from the unbridled pursuit of technology alone.

Indeed, the adoption by society and the economy of the insights, benefits and tools of basic science research, is not possible without the perspectives of History, Philosophy, Public policy, and Communication made possible through the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Governments should not be trying to dissuade students from their pursuit of such critical disciplines, by disproportionally inflating the costs of these degrees.

The previous government argued that it would increase the flow of STEM trained students by reducing the cost of STEM degrees. However, JrG also reduced the amount paid to universities for teaching many STEM disciplines, making these expensive programs harder to deliver and maintain. This ironically made it less attractive for universities to offer additional STEM places, compared to other disciplines for which the overall margins are better.

In consequence, many of the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities degrees have been disincentivised at the demand side by higher student fees, whilst the STEM degrees have been disincentivised at the supply side by reducing the margins for these programs. In the face of these confounding effects, and despite the country’s urgent need for Engineers and ICT specialists, we see little evidence of an upturn in student demand for STEM education.

During the consultation on JrG some more sensible and less extreme proposals were put forward by a number of organizations, including the ACDS. We believe that these submissions would provide a good starting point for a new minister to consider urgently needed reforms.

Press Release: May 31st 2022


Prof. Melissa Brown, President, ACDS

Hon. Prof. John Rice, Executive Director, ACDS